Readers React

To keep the L.A. Phil 'cool,' tap classically trained pop artists

To the editor: As a music critic, I appreciated the excellent article on the present and future of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. ("The Los Angeles Philharmonic faces up to a daunting future," Feb. 15)

While not a fan of classical music, I think the article got it right about what the problem is — high prices, lack of diversity and especially a failure to understand the radical changes the entire music industry is going through.

However, the classical music world is missing a resource that could help lead it into the 21st century: today's emerging rock, pop and blues artists who are classically trained. Many of the rising young stars of popular music started off learning Brahms and Mozart.

Young artists who were raised at home studying Western or Latin classical music and went to school listening to rock and rap are revolutionizing the popular music scene, erasing genre lines and infusing it with classical melodies, Latin orchestration, multilingual lyrics and soaring arias. Recruiting classically trained rock and pop artists and giving them the freedom to score and lead the symphony for some late-hour experimental programs aimed at the crowds spilling out of downtown bars may just be the innovation that allows the L.A. Phil to be "cool" for a new generation as well as great for the current one.

Patrick O'Heffernan, Mar Vista

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To the editor: An unnamed woman quoted in the article complains, "We can't keep doing Mahler if we want to get the 20-year-olds."

If the only goal is to get an audience of young people, I suggest that the L.A. Phil disband and start programming Lady Gaga in Staples Center. But if the orchestra aspires to bring time-tested music to audiences who are able to appreciate it, it must continue to play Mahler and Mozart while also carefully bringing new, high-quality works into its repertoire.

Personally, I'm hardly eager to hear Brahms intermingled with fads that will vanish from the radio in a few weeks.

Geoff Kuenning, Claremont

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To the editor: The headlining photos on the front page of Sunday's edition showing the L.A. Philharmonic, juxtaposed with a congested, smoggy trip on L.A. freeways that I took later in the day, led me to think about Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Elizabeth D. Eastman, Rancho Palos Verdes

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